A report on Nils Asther

Asther in 1930s by George Hurrell
Asther by Alexander Binder in 1925

Swedish actor active in Hollywood from 1926 to the mid-1950s, known as "the male Greta Garbo".

- Nils Asther
Asther in 1930s by George Hurrell

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In this 1931 publicity photo, Dorothy Mackaill plays a secretary-turned-prostitute in Safe in Hell, a pre-Code Warner Bros. film.

Pre-Code Hollywood

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The brief era in the American film industry between the widespread adoption of sound in pictures in 1929 and the enforcement of the Motion Picture Production Code censorship guidelines, popularly known as the "Hays Code", in mid-1934.

The brief era in the American film industry between the widespread adoption of sound in pictures in 1929 and the enforcement of the Motion Picture Production Code censorship guidelines, popularly known as the "Hays Code", in mid-1934.

In this 1931 publicity photo, Dorothy Mackaill plays a secretary-turned-prostitute in Safe in Hell, a pre-Code Warner Bros. film.
Pre-Code films such as The Public Enemy (1931) were able to feature criminal, anti-hero protagonists.
42nd Street (1933) made concessions to the Hays Code in its dialogue but still featured sexualized imagery.
Will H. Hays was recruited by the studios in 1922 to help clean up their "Sin City" image after a series of scandals, especially the Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle manslaughter trial.
This 1932 promotional photo of Joan Blondell was later banned, under the then-unenforceable Motion Picture Production Code.
Nils Asther kissing 15-year-old Loretta Young's foot in a scene from Laugh, Clown, Laugh (1928). A silent pre-Code scene before the introduction of the 1930 code.
Unemployed men in 1931. The Depression profoundly influenced pre-Code Hollywood both financially and artistically.
A crowd gathers around American Union Bank in New York City during a bank run early in the Great Depression. The mob mentality displayed in bank runs was portrayed in films like American Madness (1932), where Frank Capra depicted "the thin line between investor confidence and panic in Hoover's America."
Warren William, described by Mick LaSalle as "one of the singular joys of the Pre-Code era", played industrialist villains and other lowlife characters.
A famous scene from It Happened One Night, in which Claudette Colbert hitchhikes using an unorthodox method to attract a ride, after Clark Gable's failure to get one with his thumb.
In the pre-Code film Gabriel Over the White House (1933), a U.S. President makes himself dictator – part of what the 1930s trade papers dubbed the "dictator craze".
Scenes showing guns pointed at the camera (as in this shot from The Great Train Robbery, 1903) were considered inappropriate by New York State censors in the 1920s, and usually removed.
The public's fascination with gangsters in the early 1930s was bolstered by the extensive news coverage of criminals like Al Capone and John Dillinger, upon whom were based such characters as Scarface, portrayed by Paul Muni (1932).
In Little Caesar (1931), Rico (Edward G. Robinson) confronts Joe (Douglas Fairbanks Jr.) for wanting to leave the gang.
The infamous "grapefruit scene" in The Public Enemy (1931), with James Cagney and Mae Clarke
Both Osgood Perkins and Paul Muni light a match for Karen Morley's cigarette in the trailer for Scarface (1932). Morley chooses Muni's light, symbolically spurning her boyfriend for the fast-rising gangster.
I am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (starring Paul Muni, 1932) was based on the autobiographical memoirs of Robert E. Burns, who was himself a fugitive when the picture was released. The film proved to be a powerful catalyst for later criminal-justice and social reforms.
The titles of pre-Code films were often deliberately provocative. Though violent, Safe in Hell (1931) was a socially modern, thoughtful film.
Some objected to publicity photos such as this 1932 shot of Ina Claire posing seductively on a chaise lounge from The Greeks Had a Word for Them.
Kay Johnson in Madam Satan (1930), directed by Cecil B. DeMille.
Marlene Dietrich's open bisexuality caused an uproar. In 1933 her studio, Paramount, signed a largely ineffectual agreement not to depict women in men's clothes in their films.
Betty Boop in 1933 and 1939
Dancers rehearsing in abbreviated clothing in 42nd Street (1933) illustrates the allure of the backstage musical
The "By a Waterfall" number from Busby Berkeley's Footlight Parade (1933), which also highlighted James Cagney's dancing talents.
Harry Earles of The Doll Family and Olga Baclanova in the controversial Freaks (1932).
Boris Karloff in Frankenstein (1931). The monster's brutality shocked many moviegoers, as did the doctor's declaration that "Now I know what it feels like to be God!" By the time of Bride of Frankenstein (1935), the Code was in full effect.
In Murders in the Rue Morgue (1932), the shadow of the ape's hand appears over head of Camille (Sidney Fox) as it enters her room. What follows has been dubbed "interspecies miscegenation" by film historian Thomas Doherty.
All Quiet on the Western Front (1930), one of the first American films to portray the horrors of World War I, received great praise from the public for its humanitarian, anti-war message.
The PCA seal of approval in the 1930s. The Seal appeared before every picture approved by the MPPDA.
Scenes such as this, in which a man is about to kiss a woman in bed in her nightgown, (Warren William and Ann Dvorak in 1932's Three on a Match) were proscribed by the Production Code. After 1934, a scene such as this would not appear in a Hollywood film for decades.
Shirley Temple, a rising star in 1934, was advertised as "an attraction that will serve as an answer to many of the attacks that are being hurled at pictures."
Leo Gorcey and James Cagney in Angels with Dirty Faces (1938)
The sexually charged Baby Face (1933) starred Barbara Stanwyck, who "had it and made it pay".
In this 1931 publicity photo, Dorothy Mackaill plays a secretary-turned-prostitute in Safe in Hell, a pre-Code Warner Bros. film.

Frank Capra's The Bitter Tea of General Yen was not quite the same type of film: Stanwyck plays a missionary who goes to civil-war-torn China and meets the titular general (played by Nils Asther) after his car kills the driver of her rickshaw.

Theatrical release poster

The Bitter Tea of General Yen

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Theatrical release poster
Nils Asther and Barbara Stanwyck as General Yen and Megan Davis.
Toshia Mori as Mah-Li.
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The Bitter Tea of General Yen ad from The Film Daily, 1932

The Bitter Tea of General Yen is a 1933 American pre-Code drama war film directed by Frank Capra and starring Barbara Stanwyck, and featuring Nils Asther and Walter Connolly.

Theatrical poster

Forced Landing (1941 film)

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1941 action film directed by Gordon Wiles and distributed by Paramount Pictures.

1941 action film directed by Gordon Wiles and distributed by Paramount Pictures.

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Forced Landing stars Richard Arlen, Eva Gabor, J. Carrol Naish, Nils Asther and Evelyn Brent.

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Flying Blind (film)

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1941 American action and comedy film directed by Frank McDonald and distributed by Paramount Pictures.

1941 American action and comedy film directed by Frank McDonald and distributed by Paramount Pictures.

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Next, Jim and Shirley fly to Las Vegas with two newlywed couples: Veronica (Marie Wilson) and Chester Gimble (Grady Sutton), and Danila (Kay Sutton) and Eric Karolek (Nils Asther) (in reality, a spy named Colonel Boro).

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Wild Orchids (film)

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Greta Garbo in Wild Orchids

Wild Orchids is a 1929 American silent drama film from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer directed by Sidney Franklin and starring Greta Garbo, Lewis Stone and Nils Asther.

The Single Standard

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The Single Standard is a 1929 American romantic drama film from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer directed by veteran John S. Robertson and starring Greta Garbo, Nils Asther, and Johnny Mack Brown.

Nils Asther in the film

The Wings (film)

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Nils Asther in the film

The Wings (Vingarne) is a 1916 Swedish silent film directed by Mauritz Stiller, starring Nils Asther, Egil Eide, Lars Hanson, Lili Bech, and Julius Hälsig, and was based on Herman Bang's 1902 novel Mikaël, which was the same source Carl Theodor Dreyer used for his 1924 film Michael.

Theatrical release poster

The Hollywood Revue of 1929

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American pre-Code musical comedy film released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

American pre-Code musical comedy film released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Theatrical release poster

At least two sequences in the original roadshow version are missing from current prints: an opening recitation by the showgirls who are seen posing in the "Hollywood Revue" sign after the opening credits, and the appearance of Nils Asther, who assisted Jack Benny in introducing the final "Orange Blossom" number.

Love's Finale

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Love's Finale (Finale der Liebe) is a 1925 German silent film directed by Felix Basch and starring Nils Asther and Lucy Doraine.

Her Husband's Wife

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Her Husband's Wife (Der Mann seiner Frau) is a 1926 German silent film directed by Felix Basch and starring Nils Asther, Lucy Doraine, and Erich Kaiser-Titz.